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What is Blue Light and How Does it Affect My Skin?

What’s the deal with blue light and skin? Is phone light bad for skin? Here, we explain what blue light is and how to protect your skin from its damaging effects.

You may already be pretty familiar with ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes directly from the sun itself. These rays wreak havoc on our delicate skin and over time can result in all sorts of damage ranging from hyperpigmentation to dryness to premature wrinkling to—worst of all—skin cancer. And many sunscreens protect against these dangerous rays.

However, the full spectrum of light encompasses other harmful things that can be damaging to your skin, including blue light. Here’s what you should know about blue light and skin.

OK, so what exactly is blue light?

Light exists on a rainbow spectrum that ranges from UV (purple) all the way to infrared radiation (red). The sun produces all these various forms, and each affects the skin in ways that vary according to their wavelengths and the amount of energy they put off. The only light that’s technically visible to us is blue through infrared, so it makes sense that this section of the spectrum is referred to as “visible light.”

True to that ol’ ROYGBIV acronym, blue light sits right next to UV on this colorful spectrum. Given its proximity to UV rays, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that blue light puts off a lot of energy. In fact, it’s also referred to as “high energy visible light” or HEVL.

While the sun is responsible for casting this blue light, it’s important to note that blue light is also emitted from artificial sources. The artificial sources you’re most familiar with? Your laptop, iPad, TV, smart phone, and basically any other screen you interact with throughout the day. It can even be emitted from light bulbs!

Is blue light damaging to skin?

Given that blue light is literally everywhere—and that many of us spend a whopping average of 10 hours per day in front of a screen—understanding how blue light and skin connect is super important.

Remember how we talked about how blue light has high energy? Well, those high energy levels mean that blue light can reach into the deep layers of our skin—beyond the surface, beyond the epidermis and dermis, and straight into what’s called the “hypodermis” layer. The more we’re exposed to blue light, the greater its effects are. Over time, it can cause hyperpigmentation, including the formation of age spots and melasma.

Like UV rays, blue light also causes the formation of free radicals. To make a long explanation short: free radicals are unpaired electrons. Electrons like to travel with a friend, but blue light and UV rays can cause them to become separated—much like when you’re hanging out with your partner in crime at a crowded party and lose each other.

Once the electrons become separated they start spazzing out and, in an attempt to rebalance themselves, they’ll grab onto anything nearby. When these single electrons attach themselves to your skin cells it can cause some serious damage, including elastin and collagen breakdown.

Basically, free radical damage expedites the process of aging and leads to dullness, saggy skin, wrinkles, and age spots.

Blue light can reach into the deep layers of our skin—beyond the surface, beyond the epidermis and dermis, and straight into what’s called the “hypodermis” layer.

How to protect yourself from blue light:

Don’t get too discouraged just yet, because there’s light at the end of the tunnel! Thanks to scientific advancements and breakthrough sunscreen formulations, you can protect yourself from blue light damage. Here, we’re outlining three ingredients we use in our formulas to help protect your skin from this stressor…

Red Algae

While many forms of algae thrive near the water’s surface, red algae live in deeper parts of the ocean where only blue and UV light can reach them. As such, they’ve adapted a mechanism that allows them to absorb blue light in order to survive at these depths.

We’ve harnessed the power of red algae in our award-winning Unseen Sunscreen, and its inclusion helps shield skin from the blue light you encounter throughout the day. Unseen Sunscreen is a chic, lightweight, clear formulation that’s perfect on its own or underneath your makeup to impart a touch of glow in addition to lots of protection.

Butterfly Bush Extract

Let’s travel from the depths of the ocean to the tippy top of Chinese mountains. At this high altitude, where UV radiation is at its most extreme, you’ll find the butterfly bush. This ingredient is a very powerful antioxidant, meaning it protects against the free radical damage we discussed above.

Our Smooth and Poreless 100% Mineral Matte Screen contains butterfly bush extract to actively shield your skin from free radicals. In addition, it’s formulated to create a pore-blurring effect and keeps oil at bay for a matte finish. It’s a great option for anyone with oily, sensitive, or acne prone skin and works well alone or underneath your favorite foundation.

Cerium

Poke around on the periodic table of elements and you’ll come across Cerium (Ce), a rare and translucent mineral. While zinc and titanium dioxide — two ingredients found in mineral/physical sunscreens — can sometimes leave a white cast, cerium’s translucence means that it goes on completely clear.

Our brilliant Superscreen Daily Moisturizer uses cerium oxide, which is a mixture of both cerium and oxygen, to reflect and shield your skin from blue light. We’re really proud of its lightweight, bouncy formulation and consider it the foundation of any skincare regimen. This multitasker hydrates your skin while protecting it from blue light, infrared light, UV rays, pollution, and free radical damage — what more can you ask for?

Winter Cherry

Winter cherry is plant that grows in southeast Asia and its leaves and fruit are commonly used for medicinal purposes. Winter cherry extract can also be used in skincare to protect skin from atmospheric pollution and blue light.

Our new 100% mineral offering, Zincscreen 100% Mineral Lotion SPF 40 contains winter cherry. It’s the perfect daily lotion for sensitive or acne-prone skin and for anyone who is looking for a completely mineral SPF to wear on the regular.

The bottom line:

Blue light is all around us, and it’s important to protect our skin from the damage it can cause. Fortunately, there is sophisticated, high-quality SPF out there that can help shield your skin from it, without compromising anything in the process.

+How do you protect yourself from blue light? Share your tips in the comments!